For Those to Come
To a student planning to live and study abroad in Prague-
First of all, I hope that you know how very lucky you are to be able to study abroad at all. Not only are we a small minority of American students who are able to, financially and otherwise, but many students do not have the time or the willingness to put themselves in an entirely new environment at such a young age.
Prague is a city that is newly available for this type of excursion. It would not be possible for a large group of students to live and travel throughout this country or this region when I was born. The year 1989 is a very important year for the Czech Republic. I would highly recommend reading up on the history of Bohemia. Not only has Communism played a huge role in the country’s recent history, but other wars and regimes have greatly affected the mentality and structure of this very different place.
The look of this city is also unlike any you will have ever seen. The medieval look of old town, and the somewhat dilapidated neo-renaissance or art nouveau buildings more outside the center, make Prague a very unique place. I think a basic knowledge of architecture (which is almost inseprable from history and politics) is helpful for the student planning to study here.
There are an infinite number of wonderful things that will happen, but it is impossible to predict what exactly they will be. It is ultimately you who determines how you will conduct your life abroad, btu it is important to know that it is only YOU who has the power to choose where you will go. Perhaps you will decide to travel very often, as I did. And perhaps if you do choose to do so, you will travel alone, or you will travel with friends. This leads to one thing I would recommend strongly, and that would be to avoid traveling in large groups. Many of my friends here felt compelled to plan their spring break trips early on, and with large groups of others who were basically strangers. They felt that they then had to spend lots of time with those people, and sacrifice doing what they really wanted. Many people who I have spoken to regret this “group” travel. It often leads to fights, or dissatisfaction. If you do want to travel with others, I would strongly recommend having the group number not go above five. Seriously. Take this advice to heart. You get a more intense experience with a smaller number of people, and there are less arguments between the group about who wants to do what at what time and for how long, and all those other travel problems.
Which leads to another thing I would recommend: the Eurail pass. It made my experience here in Prague unlike anyone else’s. if you enjoy train travel, take my advice: get the global flexi pass, 15 days within two months. It does not require any planning in advance, saves money, and allows you a lot of time to reflect on your journeys. Make sure to bring a book with you, and don’t carry valuables.
It would be impossible to tell you where to go and what to do in Prague: part of the experience is about being lost, being confused, and finding your way (literally and metaphorically). It is good to acknowledge your misunderstanding of the place you’re in. it is good to be a stranger for a while, and feel uncomfortable. I believe this makes you a stronger person. But then again, it is up to you how you spend your time here.
I lived in the Osadni building, which has the best rooms of all the dorms, but not necessarily the easiest access to the city center. All of the student dorms are wonderful, and so is the staff, so make sure you take advantage of your teachers and the library and the photography darkroom.
I’m jealous that you are just getting ready to embark on your journey – I’m sad that I’m about to leave. This will be an experience unlike any other in your life. But don’t let that worry you, or make you think you’re not doing enough. Just try to enjoy it, and walk around as much as you can.